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Iran: President Khatami Meets With Pope John Paul

Vatican City, 11 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - The issue of human rights in Iran was raised during Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's talks at the Vatican today. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodan brought up the controversial subject in a meeting with Khatami after the Iranian president held talks with Pope John Paul. Further details of the human rights discussion were not available. Pope John Paul said his earlier 25-minute private meeting with Khatami made today "an important, promising day." Their meeting was described in a Vatican statement as cordial, with the focus on building dialogue between Muslims and Christians. But Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the possibility of a visit to Iran by the Pontiff was not discussed.

Khatami later said he hoped today's talks will help bring a "victory of monotheism, of ethics, of morals together with peace and reconciliation."

About 50 Iranian opposition activists gathered near St. Peter's Square to protest Khatami's visit. Police reportedly detained four women and two men.

Today's meeting came at the end of Khatami's three-day state visit to Italy, the first to the West by an Iranian leader since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.